Lessons learned from the online presence of 16 geography education professors

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Geography education professors and their online presence

Scott Young, in a guest post on Cal Newport’s Study Hacks, advices to look at people who are a few steps ahead in the career of your choice. While he advices his readers to interview them, I thought some insight about web-presence and h-indexes might also be gathered by looking at the actual web-presence of professors.

Identifying geography/social studies education professors

Both Google Scholar itself and the ‘Publish and Perish’ app were helpful in identifying a sample. To check for an institutional and personal website, I looked at the first 1-2 pages of the results of a Google Search.

German-speaking area

Of the 30 geography professors checked in Germany  23 did not have a public Google Scholar profile. (The HGD site was a big help in looking for professors).

7 of the 30 had a Google Scholar profile. Of these, all had also a ResearchGate profile and an institutional website, but seemed to have no private website. The top 3 in citations additionally had an Academia profile.

Cites ranged from 50 (8 publications, h-index 5) to 551 (67 publication, h-index: 12). There is no clear correlation between number of papers and number of cites – the other 5 numbers were 488 cites (96 publications, h-index: 13); 139 cites, (46 publications, h-index: 6); 133 cites (125 publications, h-index: 8); 118 cites, (34 publications, h-index: 8); 92 cites (27 publications, h-index: 6);  50 cites, (8 publications, h-index: 5).  However, in general, writing more paper seems to give a better shot at having a better h-index.

Of the 8 professors checked for Switzerland, 7 did not have a public Google Scholar profile. The only one that did had 1117 cites (25 publications, h-index 10). He had an RG profile and an institutional website, but seemed not to have either Academia or a private website.

English-speaking area

There are a lot more professors in the English speaking area. As in the German-speaking area, not all have a public Google Scholar profile. But it took much less to find 8 professors for comparison (11 I checked had none). I didn’t search very systematically, so this is not a representative sample.

All had an institutional website, one additionally had her own company with a website.

All but the professor with the lowest number of cites had a ResearchGate profile, but she had an Academia one. 4 of the other professors also had an Academia profile. Cites range from 55 cites (10 publications, h-index 3)  to 3820 cites (139 publications, h-index 20).  The others were: 2486 cites (59 publications, h-index 19); 1434 cites (82 publications, h-index 23); 1424 cites (80 publications, h-index 19); 351 cites (22 publications, h-index 9); 222 cites (54 publications, h-index 7); 60 cites (17 publications, h-index 4). 

Data accuracy

One problem is that not all professors, even if they have a public Google Scholar, ResearchGate and/or Academia profile, keep it up to date. This can be seen e.g. in the number of publications listed being not the same.

Additionally, the automated update feature could really mess up one’s Google Scholar profile, as described by Mark Dingemanse. I noticed that in one case, where the top cited paper was a fact sheet by the ‘National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center’.  It’s not impossible for a geography education professor to be involved in that. But since there are no related papers to that topic on that profile, it might also be a case of a faulty automated addition.

Lessons learned

In general, this made me wonder how reliable studies about average h-indexes in different fields are. After all, if a lot of faculty don’t have a public Google Scholar profile, a large segment of the population –people that successfully got a professorship – is missing. Moreover, it seems not all the data on there is necessarily complete and accurate.

What the list also shows is that just because you publish more, doesn’t necessarily mean that you get cited more: some have lots more publications than others, yet only a fraction of the citations.

While all of the professors had an institutional website, private websites don’t seem to be a thing for this sample. At least not those ranking on the first pages on Google when searching for the name. That doesn’t mean that no geography educator has a website – Joseph Kerski, who is not a professor but works for ESRI, comes to mind. It just means that private websites are much, much less prevalent than I thought.

ResearchGate is very popular – 15 out of the 16 professors had a profile there. Only half had an Academia profile.

Looking at strategies, several of the professors seem to publish in both geography as a science and geography education, while others publish exclusively or nearly exclusively about education. For several professors, one or more geography as a science papers are among their 3 most highly cited papers.

Looking at the Google Scholar profiles also confirmed that choosing the right venue is important. Leaving being a co-author on standards aside (for instance, the 1994 geography for life has 301 cites), there seem to be quite a few well-cited Journal of Geography, Journal of Geography in Higher education, RIGEO, IRGEE and the Geography Teacher papers. Some also publish in more general journals, such as ‘Social Education’, ‘Theory and Research in Social Learning’, ‘Teaching and Teacher Education’ or ‘The Journal of Educational Research’.

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